Media Contact

Janna Farley,

April 11, 2023

Today, Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law two bills that will prohibit transgender students from playing sports on teams that match their gender identity at North Dakota’s public K-12 schools and public universities. 

The ACLU of North Dakota opposed House Bill 1249 and House Bill 1489, legislation that violated both the United States Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which protects all students – including those who are transgender – from discrimination based on sex.

“Nobody wins when politicians meddle in people’s lives like this. Nobody wins when we codify discrimination like this,” said Cody Schuler, ACLU of North Dakota advocacy manager. “These bills are not about leveling the playing field for student athletes. They’re about erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life. Signing House Bill 1249 and House Bill 1489 into law is shameful and only reinforces the incorrect notion that transgender students are not entitled to the same dignity and respect as all students.”

By signing House Bill 1249 and House Bill 1489, Gov. Burgum’s actions follow how other governors have handled the issue, with many who have enacted similar bans using transphobic and emotionally charged language to justify their decisions. In the last three years, 19 states have banned transgender student athletes as part of an escalating wave of state-level restrictions on the rights of transgender people.

The Supreme Court, however, last week rejected an emergency request to reinstate a West Virginia law barring transgender athletes from participating in school sports. Similar federal lawsuits are pending in Idaho and Tennessee.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in the West Virginia case, the Biden administration doubled down on the notice of interpretation with a proposed change to Title IX. The rule would block states from implementing transgender athlete bans but would allow some exceptions for schools and teams to create their own restrictions to ensure fairness.

"This proposal is a clear rejection of the open and baseless efforts to categorically ban all transgender youth from playing alongside their peers,” Schuler said. “Such laws are rooted in little more than discrimination and ignorance, and this proposal from the Biden administration makes that clear. We welcome the opportunity to build upon this starting point to ensure all transgender youth can play free of needless barriers or intrusions on their privacy.”  

About the ACLU of North Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of North Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes South Dakota and Wyoming. The team in North Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of North Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of North Dakota.